Rain Man Parody [Richard Ruisi, Germany, 2018]

Despite what the name suggests, Rain Man Parody (from Dragonfly-FX Entertainment) falls some way between a re-imagining and a re-enactment of one of Rain Man’s [Barry Levinson, US, 1988] most iconic scenes. Recreated with the famous pairing of Charlie and Raymond as friends (rather than brothers) and with certain lines amended or re-hashed for increased dramatic effect, Rain Man Parody possesses the tone of an acting showreel, with a small sprinkling of artistic panache thrown in for good measure.

In one scene from the original 1988 film, Charlie and Raymond speed down the highway on the start of a brotherly road trip, soon arguing over the suitability of Raymond’s underwear. In a reimagining of the famous Cruise and Hoffman pairing, here, our friends find themselves in a University library rather than a motorcar. Although the exact actions and blocking of the scene may be different, Charlie’s exasperation and explosive reaction, here portrayed by actor Andy Magro, are much the same, with the spirit of the original scene left intact as Charlie shouts, swears, and launches a tirade of abuse towards Raymond.

Disappointingly, Rain Man Parody misses a huge opportunity to deliver on its title and premise. Despite becoming a firm fan favourite and helping to cement Hoffman and Cruise in 80s film folklore, Rain Man’s academic legacy is problematic. Heralded as one of the first on-screen depictions of autism, and helping to put the developmental disorder firmly on the map, it has laid the groundwork for increased public and media attention ever since. Retired American psychiatrist and expert on Autism, Darrold Treffert served as script consultant on the original piece, yet it is often viewed as having firmed up an inaccurate stereotype, one the condition is still struggling to distance itself from. Raymond is presented as having near superhuman abilities, highly uncommon in people with autism, with only one in ten actually classed as a savant.

Here then, an opportunity for a true parody, one that poked fun at outdated portrayals of complex conditions now better understood by the general public, could have been opportune. Unfortunately, with the emphasis of the short put entirely on Andy Magro’s portrayal of Cruise’s Charlie, the character of Raymond is relegated to little more than a bit part, with little humour from either performer coming to lighten the mood.

Some positivity can be found, however, in the truly stunning backdrop afforded for the scene. Presented with a smooth left to right tracking shot, providing a beautiful panorama of our university library locale, it is a truly stunning vista. Magro, too, clearly has experience in his craft, with many of his lines delivered adeptly. Whether his performance alone is enough to garner serious attention in this piece, or to bring further opportunities for him in his own career, is left uncertain.

With a proclaimed budget of €2500, it must be questioned whether paying out for the library backdrop was worth it (although this route still may have been cheaper than acquiring a 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible, as used by Cruise in the original film). As another string to the bow of a budding film actor’s showreel, Rain Man Parody serves its purpose; as serious fodder for the savvy cinephile, it’s left wanting.

'Rain Man Parody' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2020.

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